NBA Finals 2010 Game 2: L.A. Lakers Should Look To John Wooden for Approach

Amid the buzz between NBA Finals games in Los Angeles, the game and city lost legend John Wooden at age 99 Friday night. If Wooden had to die in any hospital, it's appropriate that it was one only about 1,000 paces from The House He Built, Pauley Pavilion.

There was a time not so long ago, at least to those who can still remember the time when Coach Wooden leading the Bruins to the national championship was an annual rite of spring, when Wooden's Bruins were essentially the only game in the sports cow town that was Los Angeles.

Wooden won his first championship in 1964, a time when the Lakers were a faded dynasty, with the only championship trophies the franchise could lay claim to taking up shelf space in Minneapolis.

Sure, the Dodgers had already won a few titles in Los Angeles, but having just gone westward ho in 1955, they were still considered Brooklyn's team (and stlll are by a vocal, if very graying, minority).

The Rams, then emigres from Cleveland, had made a handful of playoff appearances, but pre-Fearsome Foursome, were largely mediocre, presaging an ambivalent relationship between the sport of pro football and the City of Angels for decades to come.

Wooden was the first coach to win with a team that wasn't some other city's—for lack of a more dignified term given the subject—"sloppy seconds." Wooden's unprecedented streak of ten championships in 12 years put Los Angeles on the sports map and finally brought the city national championships it could truly call its own.

As a coach, he emphasized the importance of practice and self-discipline, but not discipline in the way one thinks of a Bobby Knight or the game's other drill sergeants. Wooden believed in a player doing all he could to put himself in the best position to succeed. Whether that player did or not was practically immaterial; what did matter  was that the player had played to his potential.

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